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Mrs. Jones (2002)
Marple writes a gossip column for a British tabloid under the pseudonym Mrs. Jones. The
name of the column reverberates, ironically, with Mother Jones, the progressive
feminist magazine, but actually ties in to the theme song, the old pop song Me
and Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul. Liam also goes undercover (in both senses) as Harry
Fletcher to dig dirt on the newly appointed interim Prime Minister, Laura Bowden (Caroline
Liam has broken up with his former girlfriend, who is also his boss at
the magazine, and who may fire him if he does not produce scandalous copy for her. As
Harry, he becomes the sex (or is it love?) interest of Madame Prime Minister. One of
themLiam or Harryis a novelist, a shameless flim flam, a Prince Charming, a
mender of broken hearts, and a man in moral crisis. Will Liam survive falling in love for
real? Could Mrs. Jones become Mr. Madame Prime Minister?
Its all good fun in Masterpiece Theaters Me and Mrs.
Jones, a very British sex-and-politics farce, and very obvious rehash of Dave
American President. The story starts out feeling like a serious,
behind-the-scenes drama, perhaps a Cold-War-era James Bond updated for audiences who still
have the shameful sex scandals of the Clinton White House in mind. For American audiences,
however, the suspension of disbelief will remain willing only when Liam Marples
highway-robber antics and the schoolgirl crush of PM Laura Bowden on Liam are read as
The complete lack of security at 10 Downing Street, the ease with which
Liam can infiltrate and fool the PMs handlers, the na´ve trust Laura intuitively
places in arch-cad Harry Fletcher provide the clues that this is a sexual farce. Marple,
undercover as Fletcher, passes himself off as a fund-raiser, and yet nobody seems to have
heard of him. He seduces Bowden by a single dance at a garden party. The PM, while being
attacked by her political opponents as weak, uncommitted, a mere shadow of the previous PM
(whom she has succeeded due to the latters untimely demise), it turns out, has
remained married to her "best friend"--bravely, selflessly allowing her marriage
to serve as an alibi to protect her husbands homosexuality.
Since details of Jack Kennedys secret affair with Marilyn Monroe
became urban legend and Bill Clinton was impeached by a Republican Congress for getting a
blow job in the White House, America seems to be waking up to realitygreat world
leaders are just as mortal and fallible as everyone else, and, perhaps, more so, given the
very public and therefore very restrictive social realms in which they must live. As
Laura (for the viewer is as quickly intimate with her as Liam is) discovers that the
secret to political success is to be true to oneself, damn the handlers and spin doctors,
she learns to disengage from the dishonesty which has haunted her private life. Her most
intimate moments of truth with Liam occur right out in public, along the banks of the
Thames, while skipping stones across the water. The real scandal, it seems, is the
dehumanizing force of power politics. The scandal in Washington is not the news of oral
copulation, but that Puritanism is such a ruling forceMe and Mrs. Jones
assumes this of its American audience.
Liam and Laura are two lonely people, whose hearts have been broken.
Caroline Goodall (The
Princess Diaries, The Mists of Avalon)
is not quite plausible as a women Prime Minister, but she is strikingly beautiful, in a
fairy-tale princess sort of way, and the camera caresses her regal English face and
statuesque form. She is not nearly as "hard" and opportunistic as other
characters keep telling us she isif anything, hers is the "beautiful inner
child" finally released from Maggie Thatchers "inner Iron Maiden."
Lauras loneliness is compounded by her abiding loyalty to her husband Richard
(played by Philip Quast). Quasts performance (singled out by other critics and fans
as the best in this cast), feels dowdy and uninspired"convincingly"
portraying a homosexual seems to be enough to achieve accolades from some sources.
Robson Green builds his character in brusque, Sam Spade tones, and
before succumbing to going through the motions of Robson Green, pretty-man, romantic lead,
star, he actually starts emoting all over the place. Green is more in his element when
Marple begins to grapple with the complexities of lust, trust, and the consequences of
past emotional disaster. As Marple lives up to his ethical potential, the audience cheers
him on to the happily ever after.
The Houses of Parliament are populated with a cast of colorful
characters, and the "Upstairs, Downstairs" dramas hinted at in secondary scenes
of the minor characters keep the story moving forward. The good are rewarded, the evil are
punished, and everyone can go home with warm fuzzies and a smile. Would that the real
leaders of the Western world are this human in reality, too.
- Les Wright